Sunday, July 3, 2011

Today marks the 235th anniversary of our nation. Most likely you'll be spending the majority of your day either lounging by the side of a pool or hanging out around a grill with your various friends and family members.

One of the few but definite perks of summer is that the weather is almost perfect for picnics/outdoor parties. Think about it- it's warm enough that you don't have to wear a jacket, it doesn't start to get dark until around 9 o'clock and you don't have to worry about storms or buggies until after sundown. Sure, the humidity might be enough to kill you, but, I feel like that's all a part of the experience. July ain't July if eggs aren't cooking on the sidewalk. One of my favorite 4th of July traditions is having a big picnic-style dinner with my family.

Whether you're meeting up with friends or family today for a party, you're going to need a recipe that's easy enough to just pop in the oven but that's impressive enough to have people coming back for seconds. Below, is a bread recipe I found in Cooking Light Magazine, a while ago, that has gone over exceptionally well the few times I've brought it to parties. It's sweet, salty and incredibly savory. Honestly, who could pass up a flavor combination like that?

Honey-Almond Focaccia Bread 
(Adapted from Cooking Light Magazine)

1/2 cup sliced Almonds
1/2 cup Olive oil
1/8 tsp Salt
1 Tbsp + 1 tsp chopped Rosemary
1/8 tsp Crushed Red Pepper

1 cup Low-fat milk (100-110 degrees)
1 1/2 tsp Sugar
1 pkg Dry yeast
14.7 oz. Flour
1 tsp Salt
1 large Egg yolk

2 Tbsp Olive oil
3 Tbsp Powdered Sugar
1 1/2 tsp Honey
1 large Egg white

Begin by heating the milk; let sit until it reaches the correct temperature (somewhere between 100-110 degrees).

Combine the oil, almonds and rosemary in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook 1 minute or until slightly golden. Drain nut mixture through a sieve, reserving oil. Toss the nuts with salt and red pepper.

Combine the milk, sugar and yeast in a large bowl; let stand 5 minutes or until bubbly. Add reserved oil, 5.7 oz. flour, salt and egg yolk to the yeast mixture. Beat with a mixer at low speed, until just combined. Gradually add remaining flour. Beat until a soft, elastic dough forms. (Tip- you might want to use your hands to mix it once it reaches this point, otherwise, you might break your mixer.)

Press the dough into a jelly roll pan (a pan with sides) coated with 1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm place for 40 minutes until it's doubled in size. (Tip- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees for 1-1.5 minute(s) and then turn it off and it should be the perfect temperature for your dough to rise.)

While waiting, combine 1 1/2 tsp olive oil, powdered sugar, honey and egg white; whisk until smooth.

Take your dough out of the oven (once it's risen) and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Press the dough gently with your fingers, spreading it out evenly towards the corners. Brush the dough with half of the egg white mixture.

Bake for 20 minutes.

Remove the bread from the oven and brush the top with the remaining egg white mixture. Sprinkle with the almond/rosemary mixture. Bake an additional 10 minutes.

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